His address in Red Square came as Russia celebrated the 72nd anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War II. Without acknowledging allies in the war, Putin said Russia deserves most of the credit for the victory, adding that the current fight against international terrorism requires a stronger Russian military.
“The Soviet Union faced the most powerful assaults by the Nazis, but there is no force, and there will be no force, that could conquer our people,” Putin said.
— President of Russia (@KremlinRussia_E) May 9, 2017
The annual Victory Day honors Russians on the battlefield and on the home front who sacrificed for the war effort. It is estimated that 27 million Russian soldiers and civilians were killed in World War II, and the defeat of the Nazis is still viewed as a source of immense national pride.
“The lessons of the past war call on us to be vigilant. And the Russian armed forces are ready to counter any potential aggression. Life itself demands from us that we must increase our defense potential. However, the consolidation of the world community is needed for an effective fight against terrorism, extremism, neo-Nazism and other threats. We are open to such cooperation.
With military fanfare and pageantry, a parade through Moscow on Tuesday included 10,000 marching troops and 114 pieces of heavy weaponry, including displays of missiles, tanks assault vehicles and for the first time, the new Arctic versions of Russia’s air defense missile systems.
Smaller celebrations occurred in cities across Russia on Victory Day, including short parades by citizens holding mementos of fallen soldiers. Those parades, known as the Immortal Regiment, also took place in Ukraine, which was a part of the Soviet Union during World War II and celebrates its own Victory Day on May 8.
The marches are regarded as pro-Russia sentiment and are viewed with suspicion in Ukraine and in other former Soviet republics — a banned march in Tajikistan still drew 300 participants. Altercations broke out in several Ukrainian cities during Immortal Regiment marches, and 25 people were detained in Kiev.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko accused Russia of aiding in the marches in former Soviet republics as a means of increasing its influence, telling new military recruits at a Kiev ceremony that the Immortal Regiment tradition was created “not to truly honor the memory” but to “assist Russia’s expansion to neighboring countries.”